Dempster’s daughter inspires pitcher

Ryan Dempster has inspiration every time he gets in a tight

situation on a baseball field with the Chicago Cubs. It comes from

his 10-month-old daughter, Riley, who’s been fighting DiGeorge

syndrome all her young life.

Riley Dempster, who was born on April 1, 2009, has undergone

numerous procedures, including the insertion of feeding and

tracheal tubes as she fights the disorder caused by a defect in a

chromosome.

Symptoms and conditions of DiGeorge syndrome vary in different

patients and with different degrees of severity. In Riley’s case,

she’s been unable to swallow. Early on, she underwent another

procedure in which a portion of the stomach is wrapped around the

esophagus to promote healing and reduce acid backup.

“She’s doing well. She’s still unable to swallow but she’s

doing well. She’s a tough little fighter,” Dempster said this week

from the Chicago Cubs’ spring training complex.

During an awards ceremony earlier this month, Dempster was

emotional as he described what his daughter has had to endure

during her young life. He and his wife launched a foundation to

raise awareness and funding and give families struggling with the

disorder updates on treatments and facilities through its Web

site.

“Our goal as parents obviously first and foremost is Riley, but

along the way we can help a lot of other families and a lot of

other people and give them something they don’t have,” Dempster

said.

Riley is doing so much better that she and the family are

scheduled to come to Arizona next month.

Dempster said his daughter must learn how to swallow on her own

and it’s a difficult process for someone so small and young.

“You’re taking an involuntary muscle and turning it into a

voluntary muscle. You are teaching her to swallow,” Dempster

said.

“As she gets bigger and stronger hopefully that’s something she

can develop. She works really hard at it right now. She’s really,

really tough. I watched her over New Year’s and over a four-day

span, she probably threw up 80 times. But she’s right back at it

the next week with therapy.”

Dempster went 11-9 with a 3.65 ERA in 31 starts last season,

spending three weeks on the disabled list after breaking his toe

when he hopped over the dugout railing to go on the field and

celebrate a victory. In 2008, after switching back to a starter’s

role following three full seasons as the Cubs’ closer, he went

17-6.

His daughter’s condition had to be on his mind most of last

season.

“I just tried to focus every game. Sure it was a tough time but

everybody goes through tough times,” Dempster said.

“I definitely got a lot of motivation, a lot of inspiration

from my daughter and from my family. For what we did go through you

want to be a better baseball player.”

Dempster is a clubhouse leader and strong teammate, known for

his charity work, his outgoing personality, sense of humor and

openness. He speaks to security guards and ushers and is as down to

earth as any major league player.

And now he has a new perspective on everything. His daughter has

given him that.

“I watch what she goes through on a daily basis and I know

she’s tougher than everybody in here and a lot tougher than I am,”

he said standing at his locker. “So she’s challenging me to be a

lot better. That’s for sure

“She inspires us. You know, watching. If you’re going through

that, I can do anything. I really feel that way.”